Education Law Center has launched an innovative Foster Care Initiative to provide special education representation for children in New Jersey’s foster care system. Lauren S. Michaels, ELC attorney and Greenberg Traurig Equal Justice Works Fellow, will spearhead the initiative, which focuses on direct representation, advocacy training, and systemic reform.
Over 9,000 children are currently in foster care in New Jersey. In addition to experiencing economic strife – they are three times as likely as adults to live below the poverty line – studies show that these children suffer staggering educational deficits. They are twice as likely to drop out of school, and more than one-third repeat at least one grade. Children in foster care receive special education services at twice the rate of the general student population. They are more likely to have special learning, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral needs because of trauma and family instability, but their needs are less likely to be addressed because of the absence of parent and family advocacy.
Complicating matters, children in foster care change schools frequently. Despite laws requiring prompt enrollment, these children often experience admission delays, delays in transferring records, and missing or incomplete records. As a result of these delays and missing records, children in foster care often experience inadequate or inappropriate special educational services, and delayed identification, evaluation, and placement in special education services.
ELC’s Foster Care Initiative will tackle these issues head-on. Children in foster care, like all children, are legally entitled to a free and appropriate, and thorough and efficient, public education under federal and state laws. The Initiative will provide direct legal representation of children and advocacy training to foster parents, caregivers, service providers and advocacy organizations, and will work to identify and promote systemic reforms.
The Initiative has already begun to reach out to lawyers, providers and other organizations to increase services and advocacy for children in New Jersey’s foster care system. The Foster Care Initiative seeks to advance one goal: ensuring appropriate and consistent special education services to improve outcomes for children in foster care so that they have the opportunity to become productive and successful adults.
Education Law Center Press Contact:
Lauren S. Michaels, Esq.
Greenberg Traurig Equal Justice Works Fellow
voice: 973 624-1815 x15
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications